Num pang, which means bread or sandwich, is the Cambodian equivalent of the popular Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. Typically, it consists of pickled carrots, daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, and meat or tofu on a baguette. At most places, the only vegetarian banh mi option is tofu. At Num Pang Sandwich Shop, just south of Union Square, they get far more creative with the vegetarian offerings.
Last week, I ordered the roasted salt and pepper Japanese yam sandwich with sauteed chard and cipollini onions. The sandwiches are made on a toasted semolina flour baguette from Parisi bakery with cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and chili mayo. The thing I like about banh mis in general is the bread to filling ratio. All the volume from the vegetables in addition to the primary filling ensures that it is not a bread-heavy sandwich. The sweet potato paired beautifully with the pickled vegetables, both in taste and texture. The one downside, and I will say this about anything overly spicy, was that while the chili mayo had a nice flavor it was way too spicy. It hits you a few seconds after you swallow, and accumulates in intensity as you continue to eat.
Dave got the pulled duroc pork with spiced honey. According to him, the pork was good and there was a decent amount. The spiciness, though, was uneven throughout the sandwich, as were most of the vegetable fillings. They packed it in in such a way that the sandwich barely held together and by the last few bites of the sandwich, quite a bit of the filling had fallen out and the bread was collapsing. In terms of bahn mis, it was middle of the road. Comparatively, it was slightly small for the price, at $7.50 for an approximately 6 inch sandwich. Other banh mis in the city, Baoguette, for example, are larger for the same amount of money or less, but, it should be noted that Num Pang’s did have a generous amount of meat.
I was satisfied with my sandwich and the price. It was very filling. Num Pang has some fairly standard sandwiches, but for the most part, I was drawn to it because of its more unusual creations. The other vegetarian sandwich on the menu is roasted cauliflower with chinese & thai eggplant spread and soy milk chili mayo. They have a list of delicious sounding sides including grilled corn on the cob with chili mayo, coconut flakes, and chili powder; pickled red cabbage, celery root & turnip; grilled asparagus and spring onion with garlic chive vinaigrette; and a tropical fruit salad of fresh lychee, young coconut, mango, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon with lemongrass and mint. While you can find cheaper banh mis, Num Pang is still a pretty good deal and has the added bonus of unique, seasonal specials that you won’t find at a standard banh mi shop.
21 East 12th Street
New York, NY